Flags and Debris weaves together sights and feelings that the Covid-19 pandemic produced as it left its mark on urban activity, on the body, and on the human spirit.
In 2020, during the first lockdown, the multidisciplinary artist Doug Aitken sought sources of inspiration in his own house and turned clothes and other fabrics he found into works of collage. The research, meticulous labor, and stillness of his work process – planning the composition, dying the cloth, cutting, sewing – were a result of being secluded and looking inward. These textile works recall flags or banners conveying verbal messages (“Nowhere/Somewhere,” “I Lost Track”) that reflect a time filled with instability and uncertainty, but they also resemble patchwork quilts with associations of warmth, comfort, and security.
As this artistic enterprise evolved, Aitken stepped outside his home and into the empty streets of Los Angeles. In collaboration with LA Dance Project, he created a series of spectator-less performances in the city’s deserted industrial areas. His textile collages now covered the dancers like flowing extensions of their bodies, or hung from city overpasses, blowing in the wind. The filmed performances were turned into a three-channel video installation, projected in the gallery on large-scale screens. The installation captures enigmatic encounters between the desolate city and figures who move through the space like twisting, struggling ghosts. Drawing attention to what usually remains unnoticed, the installation infuses static sites with surreal life and compelling energy.